Margaret A. Gannon
1814 Franklin Street, Suite 800
Oakland, CA  94612
phone:  510-452-1700
fax:  510-257-5510

HOW FAMILY LAW WORKS

 

 

Divorce

 

California has “no fault” divorce. There is no requirement of “grounds” like adultery, abandonment, or mental cruelty; a marriage can be ended when there are “irreconcilable differences,” which means a married person can get a divorce without showing that their spouse did anything wrong. 

 

If you have not lived in California or in your present County for the minimum time to file for divorce, a Legal Separation can get you started toward resolving support or custody issues.  Later on, I can convert your case to divorce without your paying any additional court fee.

 

How I can help

 

Most often, my clients want a full service relationship.  I analyze the problems facing you, discuss and design the overall strategy, file the necessary documents, represent you in court, and negotiate with your husband or his attorney. 

 

If you prefer mediation as the way to resolve divorce issues,  I will advise you on the law and how it might affect you. I can also be a negotiation coach to help you identify problems, develop alternative proposals, and establish strategies. 

 

Occasionally, a client needs legal advice or representation about just one aspect of the divorce.  This may require only a consultation in my office or it may mean having representation in court on an issue that is being heard by the judge.  Special arrangements can be made for you on an issue by issue basis.

 

 

Child Custody

 

If parents agree about how to share time with their children, the court will approve that agreement.  Keeping children in frequent and continuing contact with both parents, which is the goal of California law, leaves many possibilities depending on each family’s situation.  Very small children may share time with each parent almost every day.  Older children may need longer time segments with each parent.  Teens may begin to make their own schedule with each parent.  Judges look to recommendations from court staff social workers, custody evaluations by psychologists, and the opinions of the parents to help shape a plan that works best for the children.

 

How I can help

 

This problem may be resolved by preparing you for your meeting with the court staff social worker.  Organizing your thoughts and talking points in advance can make a big difference in how the social worker understands your children’s needs.  If custody is a central issue in your divorce, careful legal monitoring of  developments in the case can make a big difference in the outcome.

 

 

Child Support

 

Child support depends on three important things:  the number of children in the family; the amount of time each child is in the custodial care of the parent; and the net incomes of the two parents.  Judges must apply the same support formula to make sure that support amounts are the same throughout the state.

 

Some things do not affect how much child support a parent may be obligated to pay.

 

  • If your ex-husband remarries, the income of his new wife is not counted in the support formula.  The same is true if you remarry, only your income will be counted in the formula. 

 

  • The court does not look at either parent’s living expenses to decide child support.  Only income is the important information for child support.

 

How I can help

 

The child support formula can be complicated, especially where a spouse is self-employed, or either  you or your ex-spouse has a new baby.  I can help you get full information from your spouse about his current income. How data is entered in the support computer program can make a big difference in the amount a court will order.

 

 

Spousal Support

         

This is sometimes called alimony.  If your husband is the high earner in your marriage, he will be obligated to help you financially.  Of course, the same is true for you if you are the high earner.  Your initial support amount, like child support, will be based on income levels.  Long term spousal support will depend on what was your marital standard of living and on how much you can earn through employment.

 

If you have been out of the employment market as a full time homemaker, you may want time for education or job training. Spousal support can include help with that expense.

 

How I can help

 

Many details affect decisions about long term spousal support, so it's important to have a long term perspective on where you want to be in 4 or 5 years after divorce. This can be very difficult while you are stressed or even frightened. I can help you with such decisions as when and how you re-enter the work force.

 

 

Family Residence

 

Your home may be your most important asset.  It can also be your biggest worry.  Unfortunately, divorce can be a financial crisis as well as a family crisis.  You may be able to afford to keep your home and negotiate with your spouse for you to take ownership, or you may want to sell and divide the proceeds. And you might not want to make these decisions for a while.

 

How I can help

 

I can help you get a realistic picture of your community property assets and debts.  Whether there's a fair way to keep the house in your ownership or if the house is to be sold, you will need written agreements, negotiated in advance. I can help you get all the information you need before you make your final decision.

 

 

Pension and 401(k) Accounts

 

What each spouse earns during the marriage is community property, owned equally by both of you.  Traditional pensions like Cal. PERS and Teamsters pensions can be divided so that both spouses get a share of the monthly pension when retirement comes.  So can IRA’s and 401(k) accounts, sometimes called “deferred tax accounts”.  Whatever was contributed during the marriage is owned 50/50 by both you and your husband.

 

How I can help

 

Dividing pensions and deferred tax accounts can be highly technical.  You might need a pension valuation to know how much is at stake, or a special court order to tell the pension administrator how to divide the assets.  I will help guide you through this process.

 

 

Family Business and Professional Practices

 

Businesses and professional practices (law, medicine, dentistry etc.) are all “assets”.  Such an asset will probably be awarded to the spouse who operates the business or professional practice. There are industry standards for valuing inventory, furniture, equipment, and “goodwill.”

 

How I can help

 

Valuation of business assets may be the most important part of your divorce proceeding and it needs expert appraisal.  It's crucial to choose the right appraiser and to discuss the process with the appraiser so you understand the result; if the appraiser's valuation is questionable, you may need to challenge it. I am experienced and at home with this part of divorce law.

 

 

Domestic Violence

 

Domestic violence has many faces.  Emotional and physical violence take a terrible toll on the lives of women and children.  The law wants to protect you and to allow you to live in peace and safety.  If need be, the court can order a husband to immediately leave your home.  Serious violence against you or your children can be the basis for a restrictive child visitation order. 

 

How I can help

 

Telling the judge, a complete stranger, about personal details of your family can be painful or overwhelming.  I can help you recall and describe the events that will support domestic violence orders.  Representation in the courtroom will ensure that your experience is heard and considered, not treated as just a “he said, she said” situation. I will help you prepare your evidence to present to the court.